Garment buyers yet to shake off political instability concern
Shamsur Rahman, managing director of Stylecraft Limited, one of the oldest garment firms in the country, in an interview with New Age on Saturday, talked about the present situation of the country’s garment industry. Interviewed by Ahmed Shawki
New Age: What is the present situation of the garment industry in Bangladesh?
Shamsur Rahman: The industry is going through an anxious time at the moment as there is uncertainty about the political situation among the garment buyers. The main aim of the buyers is to put merchandises on the shelf on time; it is their priority.
The blockades and other political programmes in the last few months affected the operation in the garment sector badly. Some orders were even shifted from Bangladesh to neighbouring countries due to buyers’ concern over the political situation.
The present calm on the political front is yet to assure the buyers of stability. There are so many things going on at the moment. But I believe the garment industry, especially textiles, have a long way to go and we should focus on the core issues.
NA: How do you see the foreign buyers’ moves towards ensuring workplace safety and other rights of our garment workers?
Shamsur: Most of the buyers are always striving for profit maximisation. They hardly care about anything else. Issues like wage hike and labour union formation are being preached by the foreign buyers because of their own interest. Our labours are not educated enough to act after thinking cause and effect of their action; they are easy to be motivated. I think if formation of labour union is forced on the industry, the operation side [of the industry] will be affected. Ensuring workplace safety and labour welfare should be the most important job of the garment owners but they have to do it with their own consideration.
NA: Why doesn’t Bangladesh have more bargaining power with the buyers when they are shifting their focus from China?
Shamsur: When owners talk to the buyers, all they think is the condition of their own factories. The buyers are dealing with company to company and companies are offering lower rate to compete with others. The garment owners also face many problems which push them to catch the business at lower rates. For example, one company did not suffer any loss during the last political unrest but another did. So when buyers come, the well-off one might bargain but the sufferer one would try to catch the business at lower rates. So efforts by a single company are not very effective while bargaining with the buyers.
NA: How do you see the role of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association?
Shamsur: The BGMEA is an association with advocacy role. They cannot enforce anything on anyone. I believe the BGMEA leaders and its member garment owners should be enlightened. They must understand that the workers are the single most important factor for the garment industry. It’s a very labour intensive industry. Its not only the wage that they care for, job satisfaction is very important which includes so many other things. The garment owners also have their limitations but they must have honest intention to do good to their workers.
NA: Do you think the government’s policy is enough for the industry?
Shamsur: There are most of the rules which are required for the industry. It is more important to obey the rules. Surely, there is always scope for fine tuning and modification but first of all you have to follow the existing rules. The government should focus on export earning more than import duty while formulating the policies.
NA: How is Stylecraft playing its role in the industry?
Shamsur: We are guided by the thought of wellbeing of the workers, it is our motto. I believe after so many years of experience we have proved this with our work.
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